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New scandal hits Japan pubcaster

World Brief

Pubcaster NHK has been hit by another embezzlement scandal as it continues to face protests from angry viewers who are withholding the license fee.

The pubcaster recently fired its Sapporo station sports news topper Tetsushi Oshita for writing up $145,000 in phony expenses between 2001 and April. NHK also suspended and slashed the pay of 12 of his past and present bosses.

Last week an advisory panel to the Communications Ministry called on the pubcaster to streamline its unwieldy license fee collection system before the ministry submits legislation next year imposing mandatory NHK fees on all TV households.

NHK spends nearly $600 million a year sending door-to-door collectors to badger each household into paying the fees. However, there are no legal penalties for nonpayment and some 1.28 million TV households now refuse to pay, angered by the succession of frauds at the web.

Company is consequently awash in red ink. In January NHK cut its budget for the second year, this time by $427 million, and said it would shed 1,200 jobs or 10% of its workforce.

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